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BONFIGLIOLI CONTINUES THE EXPANSION EASTWARDS INTO VIETNAM
To become ambassadors for Italian electromechanics in Vietnam. This is the aspiration of the Bonfiglioli Group, the long-established Italian group which produces capacity reducers and solutions for industrial automation. Following a visit by a delegation of Confindustria at the beginning of November 2008, it was not simply a coincidence that Sonia Bonfiglioli, the current managing director of the company, should also arrive in the country, where she has just inaugurated a new factory in Ho Chi Minh City. We asked her why, apart from a few exceptions like that of Piaggio which go against the trend, this South-East Asian nation is not considered fertile soil for Italian companies.
Ms. Bonfiglioli, you went into the Indian market in 1996. Twelve years on, it is the turn of Vietnam. Yet you continue to ignore China. Is it possible to go into production in Asia without confronting the continent's real driving-force?
We think that Vietnam doesn't really come out as the loser compared to China as regards bureaucratic procedures, taxes, administrative controls and patent protection. Our research leads us to believe that nowadays Beijing doesn't really have any more to offer than India or Vietnam. That's why we decided to site our second Asian production plant in Ho Chi Minh City. Of course, we don't ignore the opportunities that a market like China can offer. Just one example: my two sons are taking lessons in Chinese.
South-East Asia is just the latest of the markets into which you've launched. But if you want to be the recognized market leader in power transmission you also have to come top in the developed economies. How are you placed here?
Our capacity to be an international force is in our genes. In 2007 just 27% of our turnover, to the value of 165.5 million euros, was in Italy. Of the remaining 445.3 million, Europe accounted for 270 million, and the rest of the world for 175.3 million. We have production facilities in Germany, Slovakia and India, as well as the new Vietnamese plant. And we mustn't forget the group's subsidiaries, numbering 14 worldwide, which we don't regard as simply commercial outposts, but as real businesses integrated into their particular market. Amongst those most recently inaugurated I'd like to mention one in the United States: a new branch we opened in the city of Hebron, Kentucky at the beginning of 2007. Since then we have seen an increase both in our business and in the number of employees working for Bonfiglioli USA. We are now recognized as a fully accredited player in the United States: Bonfiglioli Riduttori has for some time now been given ISO 9001 certification by such prestigious bodies as Dnv, Tuv and Csa.
So you do have global positioning. But aren't you concerned about the future impact of the current financial crisis both on the emerging nations and on the established economies. There are already warning signs, and fears that things will get worse in 2009. How worried are you about the risk of recession?
If we denied the deterioration of market conditions in general and of those in our sector in particular, we would be guilty of excessive optimism. But it remains a fact that our company, after double-digit growth rates in the last four years, can weather one or two years of slow-down without too great an impact. The forecasted turnover for 2008 is already down, but that doesn't send us into a panic. In fact, we'll use this period of "stalemate" to consolidate the progress we've made, which is by no means insignificant. The bottom line is: in the year 2003 our turnover was 295.3 million, and in 2007 it reached 610.8 million, a 22.5% increase on the previous financial year.
So, basically, sooner or later business will get going again, and nobody can manage without your products. But are you ready to compete in a more difficult environment, where at the end of the recession only the fittest will survive?
In half a century of operation we have consolidated those technologies which keep us at the forefront. For example, we are now beginning to examine new sectors with increasing interest, starting with operating technology for wind energy systems. Our systems and products for energy control and transmission are applicable to all types of automation. Our constant efforts to better our skills, innovation and quality contribute to the high standard characteristics of our products and their constantly improving performance. We cater for every type of industrial application: conveyor belts, production lines, cranes, agricultural machinery and earth-movers. The new challenges of the highly competitive global arena don't daunt us because we think we have all the skills to figure prominently on the international scene.